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Alaska Guide – Be My Travel Muse


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Veradis Zook



Welcome to the Last Frontier, a land of staggering natural beauty and endless adventures – welcome to Alaska. Tucked away in the far reaches of the United States, Alaska captivates visitors with its pristine wilderness, rugged landscapes, and abundant wildlife. From towering mountains and sprawling glaciers to breathtaking fjords and vibrant native culture, this state is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.


Alaska is the largest state in the United States, covering an area of over 665,000 square miles. Despite its vastness, Alaska has a relatively small population, with most of its residents concentrated in the major cities of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. This means that the majority of the state remains untouched and unspoiled, allowing visitors to truly immerse themselves in the untamed beauty of the great outdoors.


A trip to Alaska promises a myriad of experiences, from adrenaline-pumping activities like hiking, kayaking, and dog sledding, to serene moments of awe as you witness magnificent wildlife in their natural habitat. The state boasts an array of national parks, preserves, and wildlife refuges, each offering unique opportunities to explore and discover the wonders of nature.


One of the major highlights of Alaska is its breathtaking glaciers. These colossal ice formations shape the land and provide visitors with a chance to witness the forces of nature in action. From cruising through Glacier Bay National Park to hiking across the rugged terrain of Kenai Fjords National Park, there are endless ways to experience the grandeur of Alaska’s glaciers.


Alaska also has a rich cultural heritage, with a strong influence from its indigenous population. The Native Alaskan people have inhabited these lands for thousands of years and their traditions and customs are deeply ingrained in the fabric of the state. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about their fascinating history, art, dance, and music while immersing themselves in the warm hospitality of the local communities.


Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer seeking thrilling escapades or a culture enthusiast yearning to learn about Alaska’s indigenous heritage, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to plan an unforgettable trip to the Last Frontier.


Best Time to Visit Alaska

When planning a trip to Alaska, it’s crucial to consider the weather and seasonal variations. Alaska experiences diverse climatic conditions throughout the year, so understanding the best time to visit will help you make the most of your adventure.


Summer, from June to August, is the peak tourist season in Alaska. During this time, the days are long, with almost 24 hours of daylight in some regions. The temperatures are mild, ranging from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C), making it the ideal time for outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. It’s also the best time to witness Alaska’s stunning wildflowers in full bloom.


If you’re interested in wildlife, particularly whale watching, visiting between mid-May and early September is highly recommended. This is when humpback whales, orcas, and other marine species migrate to Alaska’s coastal waters. You can embark on a scenic boat tour or even kayak alongside these majestic creatures.


For those seeking a unique experience, consider visiting Alaska in the winter months, from December to February. This is when the state transforms into a winter wonderland, with snow-covered landscapes and icy beauty. The highlight of the winter season is the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Fairbanks and other northern regions offer the best chances to catch this breathtaking phenomenon.


However, winter in Alaska can be extremely cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing. It’s important to pack appropriate cold-weather gear and be prepared for adverse weather conditions. On the flip side, winter is a quieter time with fewer crowds, making it ideal for those seeking solitude and a unique wintry adventure.


Spring and fall are considered shoulder seasons in Alaska. Spring, from April to May, brings milder temperatures, longer daylight hours, and the opportunity to witness the awakening of nature. Fall, from September to October, offers stunning foliage as the leaves change to vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. It’s also a great time for wildlife enthusiasts to observe the famous Alaska brown bears as they fatten up before hibernation.


Ultimately, the best time to visit Alaska depends on your interests and what you hope to experience during your trip. Whether you’re chasing the midnight sun, witnessing the awe-inspiring Northern Lights, or exploring the vibrant wildlife, Alaska offers a unique and unforgettable experience no matter the season.


Getting to Alaska

Despite its remote location, getting to Alaska is easier than you might think. The state is well-connected by air, sea, and land, offering several options for travelers to reach their destination.


The most common way to reach Alaska is by air. There are several major airlines that operate flights to Alaska from various cities across the United States and internationally. Anchorage, the largest city in the state, is a major air hub, with numerous direct flights available. Other major airports in Alaska include Fairbanks and Juneau.


If you prefer a more scenic and adventurous journey, consider traveling to Alaska by sea. Many cruise lines offer Alaskan cruises, departing from cities like Seattle, Vancouver, and San Francisco. These cruises not only provide a comfortable and luxurious mode of transportation but also allow you to witness Alaska’s stunning coastline and wildlife along the way. Additionally, you can explore the Inside Passage, a popular route dotted with picturesque islands and fjords.


For those who prefer a road trip, driving to Alaska is an option. The Alaska Highway (also known as the Alcan Highway) connects Alaska with the rest of North America. Starting in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, in Canada, the highway stretches over 1,400 miles through British Columbia and the Yukon before reaching Alaska. Driving to Alaska offers the opportunity to witness breathtaking landscapes, encounter wildlife, and take your time exploring the region at your own pace.


Once you’ve reached Alaska, getting around within the state can be done by various means of transportation. Renting a car is a popular option, allowing you the flexibility to explore the state’s expansive wilderness and visit its national parks. Alternatively, Alaska has a number of regional airlines and smaller air taxi services that can fly you to more remote areas of the state.


It’s important to note that transportation options may be limited in certain regions, especially in more remote areas of Alaska. Planning ahead and relying on local transportation services can ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.


Whether you choose to fly, cruise, or drive to Alaska, the journey itself is part of the adventure. Whichever mode of transportation you select, prepare to be mesmerized by the incredible landscapes and unmatched beauty that Alaska has to offer.


Exploring Anchorage

As the largest city in Alaska, Anchorage serves as the gateway to the Last Frontier. Nestled between the Chugach Mountains and the Cook Inlet, Anchorage offers a unique blend of urban amenities and natural beauty. With a rich history, vibrant arts scene, and numerous outdoor activities, this city has something for everyone.


Start your exploration of Anchorage with a visit to the Anchorage Museum, a renowned institution that showcases the art, culture, and history of Alaska. Explore exhibits that highlight the state’s indigenous heritage, contemporary art, and natural history. The museum also features a planetarium and hosts regular special exhibitions.


The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a must-visit attraction in Anchorage. This 11-mile trail offers stunning views of the city skyline, glaciers, and the surrounding mountains. Whether you choose to hike, bike, or take a leisurely stroll, the coastal trail provides an unforgettable experience in the heart of nature.


Anchorage is also known for its vibrant food scene. Don’t miss a visit to the Saturday Market, where you can indulge in a variety of local and international cuisine, as well as shop for handmade crafts and fresh produce. Additionally, the city is home to numerous award-winning restaurants and breweries, allowing you to savor Alaska’s delicious culinary offerings.


If you’re interested in wildlife, take a trip to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Located just outside of Anchorage, this sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates injured and orphaned animals, including bears, moose, and bald eagles. Visitors can observe these incredible creatures up close in a natural and ethical environment.


For a dose of history, head to the Anchorage Historic District. This area, located downtown, features a collection of well-preserved historic buildings that provide a glimpse into Anchorage’s past. Explore local shops, art galleries, and cafes while immersing yourself in the city’s unique charm.


Outdoor enthusiasts will find an abundance of hiking trails, fishing spots, and camping opportunities in and around Anchorage. Chugach State Park, just a short drive from the city, offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures, including mountain climbing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing.


As the sun sets low on the horizon, keep an eye out for the enchanting phenomenon known as the “Midnight Sun.” During the summer months, Anchorage experiences almost continuous daylight, providing ample time for outdoor activities and exploration.


Whether you’re looking for cultural immersion, outdoor adventures, or simply to experience the beauty of Alaska’s wilderness, Anchorage is the perfect starting point for your Alaskan journey.


Wildlife Viewing in Denali National Park

Denali National Park is a wildlife lover’s paradise, offering unparalleled opportunities to observe some of Alaska’s most iconic animals in their natural habitat. Spanning over six million acres of untouched wilderness, Denali is home to diverse ecosystems and a wide range of wildlife species.


One of the main highlights of Denali National Park is the chance to spot the “Big Five” – grizzly bears, wolves, moose, Dall sheep, and caribou. These majestic creatures roam freely throughout the park and spotting them in their natural environment is a truly unforgettable experience.


The best way to explore Denali and increase your chances of wildlife sightings is by taking a bus tour deep into the park. The park road extends for 92 miles, but private vehicles are only allowed for the first 15 miles. Beyond that point, visitors must hop on a park bus tour, which offers both narrated tours and shuttle services. The buses are designed for wildlife viewing, with large windows and knowledgeable guides who can provide valuable insights about the park’s flora and fauna.


During your bus tour, keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears, especially near rivers and streams where they come to fish for salmon. Wolves, although elusive, can be spotted from a distance, often hunting or moving across the vast tundra. Moose are a common sight in Denali, often grazing near lakes and meadows. Dall sheep can be seen perched on the rocky slopes of the park’s mountains, showcasing their agility and grace. Caribou, with their impressive antlers, roam the vast tundra in search of food.


In addition to the “Big Five,” Denali is also home to a variety of other wildlife species, including foxes, lynx, wolverines, and a multitude of bird species. Keep an eye out for golden eagles soaring above, ptarmigans camouflaged in the alpine landscape, and curious arctic ground squirrels darting about.


Denali National Park is not just a wildlife viewing destination; it’s also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery of the Alaska Range. Towering mountains, sweeping valleys, and vast tundra make up the picturesque backdrop for your wildlife encounters. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning landscapes and close-up shots of the animals you encounter.


When visiting Denali, it’s important to remember that wildlife should be observed from a safe distance to ensure their well-being and your safety. Practice responsible wildlife viewing and always follow the park’s guidelines for interaction with wildlife.


Whether you’re an avid wildlife enthusiast or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, a visit to Denali National Park is an opportunity to witness Alaska’s incredible wildlife in a setting that truly embodies the wild spirit of the Last Frontier.


Glacier Bay National Park: A Must-Visit in Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful and pristine wilderness located on the southeastern coast of Alaska. Encompassing over 3.3 million acres, the park is home to towering glaciers, majestic mountains, and a diverse array of wildlife. It is a destination that should be at the top of every Alaska traveler’s list.


At the heart of Glacier Bay National Park are the glaciers themselves. These massive rivers of ice flow down from the mountains, shaping the landscape and creating awe-inspiring views. The best way to experience the glaciers is by taking a boat tour or a kayak excursion, allowing you to get up close to these stunning natural wonders. Witnessing the massive chunks of ice breaking off and plunging into the water, known as calving, is a sight that will leave you in awe.


The park is not just about glaciers; it is also a haven for wildlife. Glacier Bay is considered one of the best places in Alaska to spot marine mammals such as humpback whales, sea lions, and harbor seals. These creatures inhabit the waters of the park, providing visitors with unforgettable encounters. Keep your eyes peeled for the spectacular breaching of whales or the playful antics of sea lions.


In addition to marine life, Glacier Bay National Park is also home to a variety of land-dwelling animals. Brown bears can often be spotted along the shoreline, foraging for food or fishing in the salmon-rich waters. Mountain goats perch on cliffs, displaying their remarkable agility, while bald eagles soar overhead, their white heads and majestic wingspan a symbol of American wilderness.


Exploring the park’s pristine forests and alpine meadows offers an opportunity to encounter other wildlife species such as wolves, moose, and Sitka black-tailed deer. The park’s remote and protected status allows these animals to thrive in their natural habitat, providing a unique and authentic wilderness experience.


For those seeking adventure, Glacier Bay National Park offers a range of activities. Hiking trails wind through lush forests, providing access to stunning viewpoints and hidden gems. Kayaking in the bay allows you to paddle amidst icebergs and explore tranquil coves. Fishing enthusiasts can try their luck in the rich waters, casting for species like salmon and halibut.


As you explore Glacier Bay, be sure to take a moment to appreciate the ongoing process of glacial retreat and the impact of climate change. Scientists and park rangers actively monitor the changing landscape and offer informative talks and presentations to increase awareness and understanding of this fragile ecosystem.


Whether you’re drawn to the towering glaciers, the abundant wildlife, or the serenity of the wilderness, a visit to Glacier Bay National Park promises an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Alaska’s natural wonders and discover the magic that lies within Glacier Bay.


The Stunning Kenai Fjords National Park

Nestled on the southeastern coast of Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park is a mesmerizing display of icy wonders and dramatic landscapes. This stunning national park covers over 669,000 acres and is renowned for its colossal glaciers, crystal-clear fjords, and abundant marine and land wildlife.


The crown jewel of Kenai Fjords National Park is its collection of glaciers. Witness the awe-inspiring majesty of towering ice formations as they flow from the Harding Icefield, a massive expanse of ice that covers over 700 square miles. Glaciers such as Exit Glacier and Holgate Glacier offer visitors the opportunity to witness the remarkable process of calving, where chunks of ice break off and crash into the water below.


Exploring the park’s fjords is an unforgettable experience. These deep, narrow, and steep-sided glacial valleys are carved by the powerful forces of ice over thousands of years. Boat tours or kayaking excursions allow you to navigate through these stunning waterways, revealing hidden coves, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and abundant marine life.


Speaking of marine life, Kenai Fjords is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The park’s coastal waters are teeming with marine creatures such as orcas, humpback whales, sea lions, and harbor seals. Keep your eyes peeled for the graceful breaches of whales or the playful antics of sea lions as you traverse the park’s pristine waters.


For bird lovers, Kenai Fjords is a paradise. Puffins, bald eagles, and oystercatchers are just a few of the avian species that call this park home. Take a guided birdwatching tour or hike along the park’s trails to catch glimpses of these beautiful and diverse feathered residents.


On land, Kenai Fjords National Park offers ample opportunities for exploration and adventure. Hiking trails wind through lush forests, offering stunning views of the glaciers and fjords. The Harding Icefield Trail is a popular choice for those seeking a challenging hike that rewards with breathtaking panoramas.


As you venture through the park, keep an eye out for the park’s iconic land creatures, such as black bears, mountain goats, and moose. These animals are well-adapted to the rugged terrain and can often be spotted foraging for food or traversing the park’s mountains and meadows.


An visit to Kenai Fjords National Park would not be complete without gaining an appreciation for the park’s conservation efforts. The park is actively involved in preserving its delicate ecosystems and educating visitors about the importance of sustainable practices and environmental stewardship. Ranger-led programs and educational exhibits provide insights into the park’s unique ecology and the challenges it faces.


Whether you embark on a boat tour to witness the grandeur of the glaciers, paddle through the fjords in a kayak, or hike through the park’s trails, a visit to Kenai Fjords National Park promises an unforgettable encounter with Alaska’s pristine natural beauty. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and wildlife that make this park a true gem of the Last Frontier.


Adventure Activities in the Inside Passage

The Inside Passage is a spectacular coastal route that stretches along the southeastern coast of Alaska. Known for its breathtaking scenery, pristine waterways, and abundant wildlife, this region offers a wide array of adventure activities that will thrill outdoor enthusiasts.


Kayaking is one of the most popular activities in the Inside Passage. Paddle through tranquil waters surrounded by towering mountains, ancient forests, and pristine fjords. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, the Inside Passage provides endless opportunities to explore secluded bays, spot wildlife, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region.


If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush, consider taking a thrilling zipline tour through the rainforest canopy. Soar through the treetops, experiencing the rush of wind and the bird’s-eye view of the lush landscape below. These zipline tours offer an exhilarating and unique way to appreciate the lush flora and fauna of the Inside Passage.


For those looking to explore the underwater world, scuba diving and snorkeling are excellent options. Discover an underwater realm of colorful marine life, kelp forests, and fascinating rock formations. Enjoy encounters with sea otters, seals, and even the occasional humpback whale as you dive into the crystal-clear waters of the Inside Passage.


Hiking enthusiasts will delight in the numerous trails that wind through the Inside Passage. Lace up your boots and explore rainforest trails, alpine meadows, and rugged coastlines. Experience the beauty of places like Tongass National Forest, Misty Fjords National Monument, and Admiralty Island National Monument. Keep an eye out for wildlife sightings, as the region is home to bald eagles soaring above, black bears foraging in the wilderness, and Sitka black-tailed deer roaming through the forests.


For an unforgettable fishing experience, the Inside Passage offers world-class opportunities. Cast your line and try your luck at catching salmon, halibut, trout, and more. Guided fishing charters are available, providing both experienced anglers and beginners with the chance to reel in a memorable catch.


Another popular activity in the Inside Passage is whale watching. Board a boat excursion and venture into the coastal waters to witness the incredible sight of humpback whales breaching, tail-slapping, and feeding in their natural habitat. The Inside Passage is known for its high concentration of whales, making it an ideal destination for whale enthusiasts.


As you embark on your adventure activities in the Inside Passage, remember to practice responsible tourism and respect the delicate ecosystems. This includes following guidelines for wildlife encounters, leaving no trace, and contributing to the conservation efforts in the region. The Inside Passage is a truly unique and awe-inspiring destination, offering endless opportunities for adventure and exploration in the heart of Alaska’s coastal paradise.


Chasing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska, is renowned as one of the best places on Earth to witness the breathtaking phenomenon of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. If you’re in search of a mesmerizing celestial display, Fairbanks offers an excellent chance to witness this natural spectacle.


The Northern Lights are caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. Fairbanks, located near the Arctic Circle, lies within the auroral oval, making it an ideal location to witness this magical phenomenon. The best time to experience the Northern Lights in Fairbanks is during the winter months, from September to April, when the nights are longer and the skies are clearer.


To increase your chances of catching the Northern Lights, head to areas away from city lights to minimize light pollution. The Chena Hot Springs, located about an hour’s drive from Fairbanks, is a popular spot for Northern Lights viewing. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot springs while gazing up at the dancing lights overhead, creating a truly enchanting experience.


While the Northern Lights can be unpredictable, there are several factors that increase the likelihood of witnessing this phenomenon. Clear and dark skies, low light pollution, and a high level of solar activity all contribute to a better chance of seeing the vibrant colors and swirling patterns of the auroras. Keep an eye on the local weather and aurora forecasts to plan your Northern Lights adventure.


Photography enthusiasts will find that capturing the Northern Lights is a unique and rewarding experience. Remember to bring a sturdy tripod and a camera capable of long exposures to capture the vivid colors and intricate details of the auroras. Experiment with different exposure settings and compositions to create stunning photographs that will bring back memories of this extraordinary natural wonder.


While waiting for the Northern Lights to appear, embrace the wintry charms of Fairbanks. Enjoy a dogsledding adventure through snowy landscapes, go ice fishing on frozen lakes, or take a snowshoeing excursion to explore the pristine wilderness. Fairbanks also offers opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and even ice sculpting.


In addition to the Northern Lights, Fairbanks is an excellent destination for stargazing. The lack of light pollution combined with the pristine wilderness surroundings allows for incredible views of the night sky. Marvel at the vast expanse of stars and constellations, creating a heaven for astronomy enthusiasts.


Chasing the elusive Northern Lights in Fairbanks is an unforgettable experience. From the ethereal beauty of the auroras to the wintertime adventures that accompany the quest, Fairbanks offers a unique opportunity to witness one of nature’s most extraordinary phenomena.


Native Culture and Heritage in Alaska

Alaska is not only renowned for its stunning natural beauty, but also for its rich and vibrant Native American culture and heritage. The state is home to over twenty indigenous groups, each with its distinct traditions, languages, and customs. Exploring Native culture in Alaska provides a deeper understanding of the deep-rooted history and enduring traditions of the region.


A visit to Alaska offers numerous opportunities to engage with Native communities and learn about their way of life. Many communities welcome visitors to experience their art, music, dance, and storytelling. Traditional dance performances, known as powwows or cultural celebrations, are held in various locations throughout the state, offering a chance to witness the vibrant costumes, rhythmic drumming, and graceful movements that are integral to Native culture.


Art plays a significant role in Native culture, and Alaska is home to numerous world-renowned Native artists. From intricate carvings and totem poles to exquisite beadwork and basketry, indigenous artists express their cultural heritage and connection to the land through their artwork. You can visit galleries, museums, and cultural centers to explore these incredible creations, learn about their symbolism, and even purchase authentic pieces directly from the artists.


Another way to immerse yourself in Native culture is by participating in cultural workshops and demonstrations. Many communities offer hands-on experiences where visitors can try their hand at traditional skills, such as carving, weaving, or drumming. These interactive experiences provide insight into the craftsmanship and ancestral knowledge that have been passed down through generations.


For a closer look at Alaska’s Native history and heritage, pay a visit to museums and cultural centers dedicated to preserving and showcasing Native artifacts. The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage is one such institution, offering exhibits, performances, and educational programs that promote an understanding of Native cultures across the state.


When interacting with Native communities, it is important to be respectful and follow proper protocols. Be open to learning and listening, as Native people are eager to share their stories and traditions. It’s also essential to support Native artists and businesses, as purchasing authentic Native artwork directly contributes to the preservation of their cultural practices.


By immersing yourself in Alaska’s Native culture and heritage, you gain a deeper appreciation for the connection between the land, the people, and their ancestral traditions. It is an opportunity to celebrate the resilience and diversity of Alaska’s indigenous communities and to honor the legacy they have upheld for centuries.


Tips for Traveling in Alaska

Traveling in Alaska offers an adventure unlike any other, with its vast wilderness, unique climate, and remote locations. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey, consider the following tips when exploring the Last Frontier:

  1. Plan Ahead: Alaska’s vastness can be overwhelming, so it’s essential to plan your itinerary in advance. Research the regions you wish to visit, determine the best time to go, and book accommodations and transportation ahead of time.
  2. Dress for the Weather: Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable. Layered clothing is key as temperatures can vary greatly throughout the day. Bring a waterproof jacket, sturdy footwear, and warm accessories like hats and gloves.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Stay hydrated, especially in the summer months when temperatures can rise. Carry a water bottle and refill it regularly, as it’s important to stay hydrated, even in cooler climates.
  4. Bring Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes and other insects can be prevalent, especially in coastal areas and during the summer months. Carry insect repellent and consider wearing long sleeves and pants to minimize exposure.
  5. Prepare for Wildlife Encounters: Alaska is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Respect their space and observe from a safe distance. Carry bear spray and know how to use it if you plan on hiking or camping in bear country.
  6. Be Flexible: Alaska’s weather and travel conditions can change rapidly. Be prepared for delays or cancellations due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Keep a flexible mindset and have backup plans in place.
  7. Respect Local Communities and Culture: Alaska has a rich cultural heritage, and it’s important to respect the traditions and customs of the native communities. Follow any guidelines or rules set by local authorities and be mindful of your impact on the environment.
  8. Practice Leave No Trace: When enjoying Alaska’s wilderness, leave no trace behind. Pack out your trash, respect nature, and leave the environment as you found it. Help preserve the pristine beauty of the state for future generations.
  9. Be Bear Aware: Bears are commonly found in Alaska, so it’s important to take precautions. Store your food properly, hike in groups whenever possible, and make noise to alert bears of your presence. Educate yourself on bear safety before your trip.
  10. Carry Maps and Communication Devices: Many areas of Alaska have limited or no cell phone service. Carry detailed maps, a compass, and a GPS device when venturing into remote areas. Consider investing in a satellite phone for emergency situations.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate Alaska’s stunning landscapes, experience its unique wildlife, and create unforgettable memories in the Last Frontier.